Morgan Spurlock made quite the name for himself playing the human guinea pig in Supersize Me, but sadly his follow-up Where In the World Is Osama bin Laden felt like a good idea that just got lost. It may remind many viewers of how Michael Moore's third act in Fahrenheit 911 got a little confused and disjointed from his original message.
The Greatest Movie Ever Sold starts with an interesting premise of showing how cross promotion has infiltrated Hollywood movies and tv, which is something we already know. Spurlock starts out in an attempt to help us better understand how all this works by doing it himself to fund his own film.
Like many documentaries, you have a rough idea of what you're going to try to reveal or uncover, but the ending result usually winds up differently than you expected which is normally good. The only issue some may have with Spurlock's Greatest Movie Ever Sold is that it feels like his original missive was abandoned and turned more into a winking at the camera to show how easy it is to sell out in desperation to get funding for your dream project. It also shows how easy it is for your dream project to lose site of the original intent when trying to appease investors. Spurlock did a recent article in Entertainment Weekly where he showed a list of how to raise money for documentaries, and it pretty much followed what he did for this film.
Greatest Movie Ever Sold is certainly entertaining in seeing how easy it can be to become a huckster to pull in sponsors; however when Spurlock encounters some really good interview subjects it feels like it's off to the next stunt or meeting to raise more money before they can explain how we've become so bombarded with ads and product placement. One cool story is a Florida school that was so in the red that they've literally turned every inch of it into possible ad space. This is the closest we can learn of why he's doing this film, other than he's latched onto a familiar idea that we all are more than aware of without making us think too hard.
When Spurlock interviews movie makers like Quentin Tarantino and Brett Ratner, some viewers will hope to learn more about the process of product placement in movies and what they had to do to get this done, but it is just more general marketing information segment.
We do quickly see that while Spurlock is making fun of the corporate sponsors, he needs them to make his film. Spurlock allows us to see what concessions he did have to make for the film in what he could and couldn't say about the brands, but the most we learn about advertising is when he shows us MRI's taken of people when they are shown various ads so companies can better understand what works and doesn't work in the race to make more money.
Spurlock's last attempt at doing something more serious with Where In the World Is Osama bin Laden turned out to be a misstep. We can assume that if Greatest Movie Ever Sold does well at the box office, we can count on seeing more lighter style docs from him in the vein of his What Would Jesus Buy?, which he only produced but you could see his handprints all over it.